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Let’s make a deal

Let’s make a deal

I don’t want to write about politics. At least not current-events / specific-case type politics. I want to write fictions, poems, essays that deal with the light sparkling off the water. And most are like me. Few of us want to be consumed by the politics of our day.

In an article for The New York Times (Will DeSantis destroy conservatism as we know it?), the conservative (at least the way the word was used 20 years ago) writer David French discusses differences and similarities between Trump and DeSantis while arguing for a return to a more traditional Republican politician. Trump he described as being all about crushing anyone who goes against Trump; that is to say (our words here): the politics of thuggery. DeSantis he considered more principled: he’s all about owning the libs. In seeking to economically punish Disney for speaking out against his policies, DeSantis is pursuing a politics that is contrary to the freedom of expression required for a functioning democracy. But there are, at least for the moment, some principles to his madness, and we don’t yet have evidence that he wishes to wage a full-out assault on democracy.

Trump was already waging an unprecedented assault on democracy we were compiling his threats to democracy before the 2020 election (Trumps Threats to Democracy). And then, to clarify once and for all that Trump really does prefer a King Trump to a functioning democracy for three hundred million US Americans; after the election he encouraged the assault on the capitol and also tried to convince state election officials to cheat for him. And yet here Trump is, leading in the Republican polls. This clearly demonstrates that the average Republican voter is an evil person. But how can that be? And what can a country do with that information?

There’s a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly (America is headed towards collapse) by Peter Turchin, that argues that the US’s wealth inequality is currently at pre-Civil War and pre-Great Depression levels; and that the only way to save the US and her democracy is to once again (as happened in these eras) drastically redistribute wealth from the top to the middle and bottom.

[This article calls to mind an idea from Tony Judt’s 2010 Ill Fares the Land: the Bolsheviks and others were convinced that there could be no wealth redistribution without violence &emdash; it didn’t occur to them that the Western countries might non-violently vote their way towards major wealth redistribution. Of course, as Turchin’s article points out, FDR’s economic revolution was made possible by extreme conditions (the Great Depression and WWII).]

But if income inequality is the real elephant in the room, why choose Trump, who has shown himself neither interested in nor capable of effecting that kind of wealth redistribution?

So what is the story? Are you republican voters willing to destroy democracy over a culture war that is not even particularly interesting, let alone compelling, to the average US democrat?

And what exactly is it that you need to win here?

Take history textbooks: Is it not possible for US American classrooms to use a curriculum that is straightforwardly true? Something like: The Founders worked through and implemented some great political and cultural ideas that we are still benefiting from; and they also allowed for a system of enslaving people from Africa and forcing them to do manual labor under the tyranny (original sense of the word — as in “unchecked power”) of their owners; and they also encouraged policies that were often disastrous for the remaining native populations? US American children can hold a few ideas together at once: the Founding Fathers were products of their time and place; they gave us a functioning representative democracy with majority rule and protection of individual rights that we still enjoy while we still must work to improve it; and some of what they did we as a nation must now regret — in the same manner and to the same degree that we celebrate the more positive aspects of our political and cultural heritage.

What is the past? It was, but now it isn’t. It leaves traces of itself in our present, but it is not the inevitable ruler of our future. Let us together think gently through our pasts, presents, and possible futures — and where else to start the process but in school? That is to say: is there really a disagreement here? No one can make sense of a pure-triumphalism 1950s-era US American textbook anymore. But most people also don’t want a textbook that does nothing but scold and chide our forefathers, who were, anyway, just people. Insight into how very much one is influenced by one’s time and place is a critical element of wisdom. Why not begin as elementary school students to collectively meditate upon how difficult it is to be wiser than one’s time and place? “To see things as they really are. It can only make you wise.” (Cannons in the Rain by John Stewart, singer-songwriter from California)

Or take trans concerns: What? I don’t think we necessarily have to let biological males into restrooms that say “Women” on them. Nor do I see why we necessarily have to let biological males compete against biological females in high school sports, or in the olympics, or on professional teams. Such topics can be discussed. They are not the main point raised by the reality of transpeople: They’re just people; they should be allowed to be themselves; you shouldn’t pick on them, or act like somehow they are lesser. In a similar vein: No child should ever kill themselves because kids at school pick on them for being a “sissy” or “gay” or whatever it is. Seeking an environment that ushers that kind of foolish cruelty out of our shared spaces is simple decency. But these are cultural issues more than they are political ones.

It goes too far to call someone “bad” because they believe boys should remain boys and they should pursue girls; and girls should remain girls and they should pursue (or sit about waiting to be pursued by) boys. It also goes too far to call someone “bad” because they don’t believe that. But where’s the issue here? Why do we need to call anyone “bad”? You have you ideas; I have mine; we both agree that anger and meanness and vanity are never any good for anyone. So where’s the problem? The problem comes in with anger, meanness, vanity. Minus that you just have people who disagree and need to continue to work to find common ground, but who can do that because they still have a shared and functioning democracy.

In time I suppose the side that believes boys must remain boys and chase girls will fade more and more. But that’s just because gender norms are spiritually irrelevant. When we die, we are not men or women, straight or gay, rich or poor, white or black; when we die we are only the Love we lived — everything else is burned away in the fire raging between this world and the next. The more we live Love here and now, the more we don’t even feel the fire, a la Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego. Gender, race, nationality, political party, religious affiliation, and so on: these things are not real enough to get worked up about.

What’s real enough to get worked up about is whether or not we put Love first. And in this department, my responsibility is not to tell you about the shape of your own soul, but to constantly search myself, trying over and over again to stand up more straight within myself, organize myself better and better around the Love shining through everything, including each conscious moment.

In conclusion: let’s redistribute more wealth from the top down; let’s create a New Green Deal that includes everyone this time (the New Deal did not include people of all races equally and so did not lift all boats as well as it could’ve); let’s admit we all already agree on the essentials and can and should share government and together gently nudge us all and our shared government towards the more aware, clear, accurate, honest, competent, kind, compassionate, and joyfully sharing/collaborating/exploring/growing (the values without which none of our worldviews make sense to any of us).

And let’s let Bartleby Willard, Amble Whistletown, and everybody here at Skullvalley After Whistletown Booksellers relax and mosey on back to dreamtime fictions and other ancient lays.

But what about how evil republican voters have proven themselves to be by supporting Donald Trump for presidency now, even after his cards are on the table? This we can’t fathom. Where is the point where willful incompetence becomes evil? And does it not require willful incompetence to continue to believe that Donald Trump has the desire, training, and aptitude to work with us and our other elected officials to guide our nation towards what is best for all? And if that is not what you are seeking in a politician, are you not choosing evil over good leadership? And is that not another case of willful incompetence?

Don’t you Trump-supporters feel yourselves desperately flinching away from aware, clear, accurate, competent, kind, joyfully-sharing feeling/thinking/acting? Don’t you feel a mistake in your very souls? Anger buys what it wants at the price of soul. Us-vs-them chips away at soul. Needing to be right erodes soul. What is going on? What demon possesses you?

What is going on here? What are humans? And how are they to relate to one another? What is good? If God is all that truly exists, and God is only good; does that mean that evil is 100% illusion? Yes, but how to make things better when anger and pride and self-satisfaction so often accompany criticisms of others? Sometimes others are choosing poorly and these choices are damaging everyone. So then shouldn’t you say something? But how to criticize in a way that actually helps others? And how to criticize in a way that doesn’t clench up your own heart/mind/soul?

Oh America, what can we do so that we are like the 90 year old lady who has shrunk down to 4’2″ and who has dentures for her front teeth and whose bottom teeth are worn into inclines, and who looks up with bright eyes and says that she’s spent the day praying for everyone: “Someone has to do it!” And who then adds that the most important thing is your mood, that’s the whole thing, it can even make bad things good, and then, hugging herself, says, “that’s why I cling so hard to it! I don’t want to lose it!” America, we ask us: Where’s our mood? Where’s our joy at life?

Update 6/12/2023: Ron DeSantis thinks Trump didn’t go far enough / DeSantis finds a new set of laws to ignore / DeSantis privately elevates election deniers while publicly staying mum on 2020 / DeSantis would kill Democracy Slowly and Methodically

Oh, hmmm. What has happened? Republican voters seem leaning towards a clearly established would-be tyrant; but their number two guy is arguably also a serious threat to our democracy. He has bent Florida and its legislature to his will, punished politicians and organizations that disagree with him, flouted campaign laws, exerted pressure on the legislature to pass a partisan gerrymander of his own making, and “Two months before he was Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pick to oversee Florida voting, Cord Byrd was a featured speaker at a seminar for people who falsely believe the 2020 election was stolen and wanted training to stop it from happening again.” [that quote is from “DeSantis privately elevates election deniers while publicly staying mum on 2020” linked to above.]

What is going on? Republicans favor an open opponent to the rule of anything but his own whims, and the only other candidate they seem to consider worth considering seems like a more competent authoritarian. And both men run on outrage and anger.

And now (6/13/2023), with Trump’s Federal indictment, high-ranking Republicans are tweeting that Biden is weaponizing the justice department. How? Did they read the indictment? Bill Barr did: “I do think we have to wait and see what the defense says and what proves to be true. But I do think … if even half of it is true, then he’s toast … It’s a very detailed indictment and it’s very damning,” said Barr. []

How is it that Republican voters are so ready to destroy representative democracy?

Republican voters have decided that their country has been stolen from them; ergo the democracy must already be over; ergo they are right to impose a tyrant of their own? They don’t know what they are doing, and yet they are being evil. Because willful incompetence is bad, and if you take it far enough, it becomes evil, and undermining US American democracy amounts to sowing salt in the hearts and minds not just of three hundred million citizens, but of the world. Because we’ve never been perfect, and often have overplayed our hand and overpraised our prances; but at least we have fair elections and freedom of speech and thought, and with these goods we have the ability to collectively evolve and the space to find our own paths to the Truth as individuals. Now what?

The Republican voters hate us so much that they would burn down the world just to hurt us. Why? And who are we? And how are we so different from them that this is their resolve?

What has happened? The Republican Party has been corrupted, which is to say it is a place where worse ideas and behaviors are chosen over better ones — where it is easier to succeed with harmful actions than with helpful ones.

What would you have me do, God? I don’t want to talk to them anymore, since now they have decided that they’d rather put me in prison for back-talking than carry on a conversation out in the grassy free spaces where we used to have picnics along rivers and otherwise enjoy nature and her smiles. What would you have me do? They’re being bad has not made good. Their foolishness does not make me wise. I don’t mind if people want to debate about how big or small the federal government should be, or how much various groups should pay in taxes, or what textbooks should say about history, or what limits should be put in place to prevent underaged people from undergoing a trans operation that they might later regret, or any of that. All I ask is that they agree to protect our collective right to a functioning representative democracy, with individual protections, majority rule, and clarity honesty accuracy competency and good-will in conversation and policy. But they are agitating to dissolve those goods in the name of — what? Wounded pride?

But then again, if we really have reached the point where the wealth gap is once again unsustainable and the only way forward as a nation is to drastically raise taxes on the few people and organizations who possess the vast majority of the money; then we are in a desperate straight: Add this fundamental econcomic/power quandary to our current habit of escaping into media landscapes and social networks (virtual and physical) of our own self-enforcing choosing, and it is perhaps not shocking to see people flinching into evil.

But what should we do? How can we actually improve things? How can we go back to speaking to one another? You might say to start with I should stop calling them “evil”, but what are they then? “Misguided” is not sufficient; because they could stop and think a moment; stop for a moment and consider what reality is more plausible; but they do no such thing. So then they must be “willfully misguided”, which is to say “evil”. They choose mighty, dramatic feelings (teeth-clenching/shoulder-shaking alternated with heart-swelling/pride-exploding) over gentle kind resolve. Everyone does that some, but they take it so far as to make a Reality out of what is not even a reality. Isn’t that what’s going on?

So is the average Republican voter an evil person?

Or what?

This situation is more difficult to address than we had thought.

Dear God,
What are we to do?
What is good and what is evil?
What are the paths that goodness takes and those that evil takes?
How can we tell the one path from the other before it is too late, and evil has silenced all dissent?
What are we to do here and now?
What should we do to regain the center?
What is the center, and why is it to be chosen?

If the average Republican voter is an evil person, then we are all evil people. The only difference is setting. Or at least almost all of us are evil people, and the only difference is setting. For example, a few brave souls resisted NAZI Germany.

I think the safer bet is that we are all both good and evil, but we can behave evilly with a setting that favors evil behavior and personal imperfections. So for some people, it is more difficult to go along with good than it is to go along with evil; and some people are the other way; and many are in the middle-ish. And of course we are all always changing.

The reason that representative democracy is a spiritual good is that the people serve as a final check on madness and corruption in government AND in their own collective thinking/feeling/acting. How to help us all find the way forward?

That was what the wisdom meme was for.

I guess this is the best wisdom meme we’ve come up with so far: To the Rescue.

Trump helped inspire another one years ago that we’ve always thought pretty good: A Fun New War.

I don’t know. How to nudge us all towards the better? “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still!” No forced belief is real wisdom. We must seek wisdom for ourselves and our collective search for wisdom must also be open and not coerced. We must relax and enjoy one another, otherwise we’ll destroy one another and our shared resources — as dysfunctional families, given enough time, will.

But how? You are supporting Trump and DeSantis; instead of someone willing to say the 2020 election was not stolen, political power shouldn’t be used to punish people who publicly disagree with you, and that the point of politics is to work together to find what is best for everyone — not bend the country to your will, even if the tactics you employ for that bending help slide the nation towards the vanishing of a government “Of the People, For the People, By the People”.

I see this as evil behavior on your part. Since what you are asking for would harm everyone by making the nation more corrupt, and thus a place where it is easier for bad impulses to succeed and more difficult for good ones to succeed. What you are asking for is a place where evil has the upper hand. This is evil. What is your problem? Why are you doing this? I see future blood all over your hands. Like you are clamoring to harm other people and ultimately yourselves. What do you see when you look at your hands?

[Update October 2023: By late-summer 2023, DeSantis was trying a new tact and said, “No, of course he lost. Joe Biden’s the President” But also saying things like, “I think what people in the media and elsewhere, they want to act like somehow this was just like the perfect election. … I don’t think it was a good-run election,” DeSantis said. “But I also think Republicans didn’t fight back. You’ve got to fight back when that is happening.” De Santis – Of Course Trump Lost 2020 Election. Which is still saying that Biden didn’t really win; the Republicans just didn’t fight back about the right things quickly enough to keep Trump in office. In this, he still gives ample room for conspiracy theories about how the election was stolen from Trump. In this, he encourages what? What fantasy about a perfectly run election? And if you can argue that there’s imperfections here and there, the losing side has a right to call the whole thing a cheat? That’s not how you find the way forward for everyone. You find the way forward for everyone by admitting that there is no perfection in human affairs, but that this election was fair and the winner is clear and it is over. But no, he can’t bring himself to do that much for our shared democracy. Instead he kicks up nonsense:

“Still, DeSantis made sure to point out in Sunday’s interview that he saw a number of problems with the 2020 election, including Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s grants for election administration, the widespread availability of mail-in ballots, state laws that allow third parties to collect and return voters’ ballots, and how social media outlets de-emphasized a story about the laptop of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.”

And this all adds up to what, Ron DeSantis? Election results that should’ve been fought right then real quick and overturned? What does all this really add up to? Not corruption, but laws and circumstances that you think favor democratic voters. So what, until we figure out a way to get all circumstances, and all state, local, and federal laws to favor republican voters (I think some already do, thought they somehow didn’t make your list of 2020 election outrages), then we have to fight against all election results in real time until they’re overturned? That’s your vision for a healthy democracy?

Everyone slides everything to their advantage. But you take this human weakness too far, although not as far as Trump is taking it. I guess that’s why he’s the front-runner? Because the republican voter has fully embraced the nihilism of momentary victories at all costs, and for Trump and his voters lying is just another weapon? Is this where we’re at? DeSantis is evil, but not evil enough?

What is going on?

How can we deal with this broken half of our political system? How to help when we are probably right to feel existentially threatened: this behavior of the Republican Party is putting our democratic republic in existential danger. And yet what allows them to behave this way? Is it not the clearly mistaken notion that the democrats are putting the nation in existential danger? And so we begin the death spiral. It is true that the republicans are further from reality, but that is not enough to save us as a nation, and it will be cold comfort when we and if we fully self-destruct, and then, if the evil really wins, that truth will anyway be erased from what we can say.

How to deal? When are we in an emergency? And then how to move out of the emergency and into a more sustainable trajectory. I feel sick to my stomach every time I think about politics in the United States of America. I pine for my youth, when it seemed plausible that the US would always be a nice, safe, healthy place, with a functioning democracy and reasonable exchange of ideas.

Oh, wait: Did he mean that republicans just need to get all the circumstances and rules to favor republican candidates before the elections end? And that that would be a “fair election”? That’s not so evil as my initial interpretation, although what he’s talking about mostly means enfranchising less people, so it works against the good government practice of enfranchising as many people as possible. For example, election days should be federal holidays, and everyone should be legally obligated to vote, and voting should be super easy; and important primary votes should get the same treatment, with the additional detail that in primaries we do ranked voting, so as to pare down the radical edges.

Here’s a real worry about our presidential elections from the point of view of good government: not many people bother to vote in primaries, which selects for the more extreme candidates; and you can win the presidential election with a minority of the popular vote. States have rights, but we’re kidding ourselves to act like they are individual nations and should have those kinds of rights. States rights should not be allowed to interfere with the proper functioning of the federal government, particularly not federal elections. Our constitution is not perfect and not perfectly clear; when interpreting it, we should lean towards laws that help the cause of good government, democracy, the will of the many, and the rights of all. In that way we are true to the spirit of the constitution without being untrue to the oft-vague-ish letter of the constitution.]

Authors: Committee for Committed Something Deeperism
Editors: B Willard and A Whistletown
Copyright: AM Watson

Duties of a Republic’s Citizenry

Duties of a Republic’s Citizenry

[Something Deeperism Institute]

[NYC Journal – Politics Page]

[Editor’s Note: This essay is included in First Essays and A Readable Reader, available for sale on the Buy Our Books! tab of this blog.]

If you have the good fortune to live in a representative democracy, your should work with your fellow citizens to keep an eye on the rulers of your land. Sure: engage in the policy debates of your day. But don’t let those debates and the oft accompanying excitations and divisions separate you from your most fundamental duty: serving as a final check on madness and corruption. To the degree we let our leaders sacrifice good-government (open, honest, fair, without favoritism or bias following the laws, rules, and protocols) for political expediency, we let corruption and madness in.

What is corruption? Indifference to the basic rules of right thought and action: awareness, clarity, honesty, accuracy, competency, selflessness, kindness, generous fearless overflowing joyfulness. What is madness? Incompetency as regards those same basic rules. Corruption and madness encourage each other, are interrelated, and generally go hand and hand. To the degree madness and corruption rule, it is easier to succeed and/or gain and keep power while being bad (dishonest, underhanded, cruel, foolish, selfish, arrogant, incompetent, clueless) and harder to succeed and/or gain and keep power while being good (honest, transparent, kind, wise, selfless, humble, competent, aware). To the degree we let madness and corruption in, we let folly rule; to that degree, we harm ourselves and others.

Madness and corruption (in either an individual’s conscious space or within a group or organization) is when decisions come not from clear, honest, informed, accurate, competent, kind, thoughtful consideration; but rather from confused, dishonest, clueless, incompetent, cruel, mindless violence. It’s maybe sometimes kind of fun to watch movies about gangsters and rulers weaving their way through corrupt states; but it is neither fun nor helpful to live under such conditions; and it is beyond reckless to let politicians reduce the openness, honesty, accuracy, clarity, competence, and good-will in our government.
“They’re all the same!” There is no perfection, but there are better and worse directions; and if we are not consciously engaged and gently pushing towards the better, we are sliding towards the worse and/or risking chaos — which is itself a worse, and out of which generally arises a much worse.

“It’s all the other side’s fault!” OK, then, stop talking to them: that will help us to all better fulfill our shared responsibility to our shared nation. (No it won’t; that was sarcasm; not sure if one can use that in a serious essay; maybe it’s OK now that we’ve clarified that it is not meant seriously, but rather to point out the hopelessness of taking it seriously / at face value. Blame may not be divided equally in all conflicts, but when does shutting yourself off from a sizable portion of a shared democracy ever help the situation?)

“The history and/or structure of this nation is such that it cannot but destroy itself, and that’s what it deserves anyway!” Wait!: at least from this merely-human vantage, there’s no a priori knowable rule for the way history must unfold; and if this ship sinks, we all go down with it, drowning in the same old stupid boring vortex of cruel chaoses birthing cruel orders birthing cruel chaoses … ; so let’s work together to acknowledge where we’ve been, where we are, and where we want to get to; and to simultaneously seek a newer world together.

I mean:

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.*

There’s only one hope: let wisdom rule.

And we all know what wisdom looks like: aware, honest, clear, competent, accurate, kind, selfless, sharing joy, knowing how to help and putting that knowledge into action. Let’s think, speak, act, and vote accordingly.

This public service announcement paid for by:
The Community For A Better USA: Come, On, Let’s Succeed Together For Real: From The Inside Out!

And Again Our Refrain:
Everything in its place: We don’t need to agree on worldviews to agree that none of our worldviews means anything to any of us in the absence of clarity, honesty, accuracy, competence, kindness and shared joy.

[Editor’s Note:
*The Lights begin to twinkle …
See Alfred Tennyson’s “Ulysses” (written 1838, published 1842 in the second collection of Poems.]

[Editor’s Note: This essay is included in “First Essays”, available for sale (or free — write us at and we’ll email you a copy) on the Buy Our Books! tab of this blog.]

[Something Deeperism Institute]

[NYC Journal – Politics Page]

[NYC Journal]

I want to quit

I want to quit

I’d give up, but that seems futile.

I’m getting older without a cause. That’s the problem.

If Elizabeth Warren would’ve run for president, all would be well. I could relax while she unified the nation around sensibleness. But that didn’t happen.

But I don’t really understand what is going on. Why are the Republicans so crazy? Why won’t they stop running for office if they hate government so much? Why won’t they admit that we need to build roads and that people on welfare is not what is breaking the budget and that of those the small percent that are gaming the system really are not what is breaking the budget? Why do they keep pretending that cutting taxes is a magical potion? Why have they trapped us all here in this hog pen while they whistle and rodeo us in the mud–pretending that we’re raging bulls and not puny brown-nosed piglets? I am so lonely here! And the weirdest part is that we all know that we need some mixture of free market, regulations, and safety net. We all know that the magical formulas that toss away any one of those is magical thinking. So how can it be that we let the Republicans act like two of those three economic pillars are evil treacheries and the other is God’s mighty hand in creation? And so we are scattered to the wind. Oh Israel! Oh Israel!

When we be a people? When will we share this land and this purpose? Don’t we have a purpose? Don’t we agree at least that the government should avoid making decisions just to appease people and organizations with money to burn? Why are people voting for Trump? What is going on? Will someone please get me out of this dank cellar?! Who locked the door? Who’s flooding the upstairs bathroom? Don’t they know I’m trapped down here? Don’t they care?

I can’t stop the evil. I can’t even figure out what is behind it, where it is, what it is. I feel helpless and stupid. What do I do? Who do I turn to?

AMW and BW, all upset with no place to go

Essayish 5: Proposed Solutions

Essayish 5: Proposed Solutions

Can the dashing author-adventurer Bartleby Willard and his faithful editor Andy Watson get anything done? I dunno, maybe, if they can get the right rhythm going. Maybe they can put together enough sanity and creativity and firestorm and discipline and decency to make something of this project. However, what if their surrounding environment goes to pot? What then?

Many things can go wrong. A small band of haters can gather up chemical weapons or nuclear devices and take out a city or three. Or maybe before too long the world’s dependence on oil and fresh water will create a new cataclysmic strife. Or the pandemic really will come, and everybody will tumble into the sea, to float gently along: bloated sunk-eyed jellyfish who don’t recall their childhood in the scamper town or their grownup life drifting through the signs.

Or here’s a list of other worries I recently made:

We’re going to kill ourselves soon. I don’t know exactly where to fit this in. Categorize it under “First things first”. The US and Russia still full of nukes pointed at each other and around the world; still sliding nuclear submarines around the globe, ready to take out a billion people. And countries around the world still trying to edge their way into the nihilistic world-destroying club while those already in chuckle to themselves, their mountains safely full of doomsday–as if anybody could control doomsday! Oh, and then there’s pumping tortured livestock full of antibiotics; in this way agribusiness avoids the cost of treating animals with a trace of decency while simultaneously creating antibiotic-resistant superbugs. And what’s going on with GMOs? And why didn’t we put the brakes on high risk banking after it cost the world economy gazillions and came close to melting it down into burning paper and overturned streets.

Why don’t we get serious about nuclear disarmament? Why don’t we stop small groups from profiting by putting the rest of us in danger? Clearly the only hope is a growth in wisdom. But what does wisdom look like in the public sphere?

I would like to see an end to the subtle corruption of the USA of my day: The way money buys political ads and accompanying that money flutter lobbyists whispering sweet-somethings into squishy, campaign-fatted ears. But apparently spending money to make people see your propaganda everywhere they turn is equivalent to freedom of speech, which of course we need as a fundamental guard against corruption, and which is therefore duly protected by the very first amendment our forefathers brought forth on this great nation. It is perhaps conceivable that the right to outspend your enemies and therefore more fully saturate everybody’s poor little unsuspecting brain with your psychologically proven mind-influencers is not actually equivalent to freedom of speech. It is conceivable that that was nothing more than an opinion held at one specific time by the majority of nine old sitabouts who–far from being the Form-following philosopher kings that their intelligence, expertise, dedication, advanced age, and freedom from financial or career concerns was supposed to make them–had their own hatchets to sharpen.

But even supposing another set of uppermost judges were to–rightly or wrongly!–reverse the ruling that equates regulating campaign spending with regulating speech (perhaps using an argument that the speech act is one thing and the using power to drench the world in it is another thingNote 1), we’d still all be gathered around our own individual media sources, drinking only the spin that already agrees with our own particular prejudices, getting thicker and thicker in certainty and swagger and louder and louder in indignation and disgust at neighbors who gobble the contrary media.

The real problem is clearly that we’re an evil and depraved people. Except that if you actually meet us, we’re not that bad. We’ve just stopped believing in a shared good, in a larger nation, in beliefs and hopes and goals held in common. We’ve fallen for the lie of Red vs Blue and it is killing us down into the asphalt that the jumpers dent, splatter, and forget.

Perhaps if we began to pull ourselves away from the televisions and computers, and/or we began to demand not journalism that makes us feel like we are already right, but journalism that challenges us. (I know!: The problem with the latter fix is that the underlying problem involves how everyone thinks their opinions are the Truth and it’s the other side who can’t bear to be challenged with the Truth.)

Whatever you are trying for: “truth” or “goodness” or “holiness” or “best current guess” or “decency”–whatever phraseology you use, your deep underlying goal presupposes that life matters and that we can consciously find our way to better and worse ideas and actions (ie: your real motivation is a sense of meaningfulness deeper than ideas and feelings). So though our specific philo-spiritual persuasions vary widely, we all agree that life matters and that with open-hearts and open-minds, we can find our way to truer visions and better actions. Take that common ground seriously and you will see that it implies a shared absolute standard of values. The real Truth is prior to our ideas and feelings about Truth, but each of us has the same inner sense: this is the truth from which we can begin: this is the truth from which real commonwealth can beginNote 2): admit that the Truth is in each of us: we all know very well that life matters, that people matter, that we need to treat one another with respect and dignity. We don’t just think that or feel that, we know it, and it is this deep knowledge, deeper than the assumptions out of which we’d build our doubts about the authority of this knowledge, that binds us.

We need to start seeing that we have enough in common and that the only things that win in media battles are memes and dramatic swells of self-aggrandizing emotion-puffs. People aren’t soundbites or momentary thrills. They aren’t even complex, well-thought-out ideas and intricate mazes of overlapping and interacting feelings. They are ideas and feelings centered around that indefinable something that motivates and justifies our attempts to use ideas and feelings to find truer and better paths. People win when they treat themselves and others with dignity and actually think and work together; they lose when they reduce the real world to black and white sides and human beings to us or them.

But in case we don’t straighten up and fly right, I’ve got another plan:

Some scientific genius can come up with some magic dust that will–upon release from a small, square-based, cork-stopped glass flask–instantly fill the world and undo all nuclear weapons all over the world–rendering them all harmless. Another scientific genius can come up with something similar for chemical weapon X and another for Chemical weapon Y. And then we’ll need a scientific genius to release a special bacteria that will make us resistant to all the dangerous ones and a special virus that will keep us safe from the bad ones. And so on. I’m not sure how many scientific geniuses we’ll exactly need, or how we can be sure to keep their inventions from not backfiring and actually making things worse. But at least that’s the plan in a rough-sketch.

Or everyone could do like me and turn into a superbeing that cannot be harmed by anything and that jumps from city to city, from harbor to harbor, from coast to valley, from desert to mountaintop, from the seafloor to the country church. I certainly enjoy this lifestyle and wholeheartedly recommend it for everyone. But for some reason the many–stiff-necked!–drag their feet, make milky-eyed laments and handlebar-frown excuses. They can’t, they don’t know how, they’re just so wretchedly mortal–and on and on. There’s no helping some people!

Author: Bartleby Willard
Oversight: Andy Watson

Copyright: Andy Watson
Note 1: This idea originated in the idle conversation of WAP co-founder and -leader Tom Watson, co-chief of the implausible yet achievable Wandering Albatross Press. On numerous chit chat throughout the continental United States, Tom Watson has expanded at length upon a scholarly legal article that he proposes to write. In this much-promised and little-realized paper, Tom plans on demonstrating the constitution’s ultimate support for campaign finance in the 21st Century and beyond, basing his prodigious future-arguments largely upon the distinction between the freedom to speak and share your opinions and the power to fill the media sea with them. Or so I understand this as yet nonexistent but at least to hear him talk inevitable intellectual, moral, and spiritual achievement. As the unwritten article as yet remains unnamed, for convenience’s sake we will in the future refer to it as “Article I’ll believe it when I see it”.

Note 2: A Literary Allusion: “Villanelle for Our Time” by Frank Scott (Leonard Cohen put music to this poem in his 2004 album “Dear Heather”)

“Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.” is in F Scott’s poem.

I found the poem, along with a concise and thoughtful commentary by a certain “Max Stephenson, Jr”, professor of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, here;

It goes without saying that this poem is a favorite amongst Something Deeperists far and wide and near and far.

This piece has been filed under Diary of an Adamant Lover: Essayish.

About this project:

We’re letting Bartleby write his book; we’re even publishing it for him; it is two loosely bound sketchbooks:

(1) Love at a Reasonable Price: Stories of his magically timeless time here at Wandering Albatross Press interspersed with writings from that time or from now but somehow connected to that time–stories about manufacturing, marketing, distributing, and selling Pure Love;
(2) Diary of an Adamant Lover: Stories of his current time here all alone with the quiet squeaking floorboards and the rats thumping in the ceiling: Stories of his cries for help in the ruins of Wandering Albatross Press, the black and dark time after the hope and before the answer. We’re splitting this one into two sections: Biographical (writings that mostly relate the current movements of BW, AMW, and the rest of the WAP gang are ex) and Essayish (writings that mostly stay within a certain thought entertained and cultivated by the author and/or his editor).

Both books sold as they evolve here:
Buy the Books/Chapter
That page also includes a current list of chapters for each book.

Actually, the posts of Diary of an Adamant Lover probably won’t ever require a subscription. Still, with a subscription, you get a nicely ebound eevolving ebook compilation of the writings, and you get a quick buy eye-connecting “Thank you” from AW and BW as they bow their way out of the subway car with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the songs in their lungs.

This blog will consist of extracts from the book’s chapters as they are released into the lumiferous aether. You can buy BW’s book as he writes it here. You can also consider this blog a long advertisement for Wandering Albatross Press’s some-such-several wonderful products; like . You can also view this blog as it’s own thing–a good unto itself–and as such a sweet, chaste little kiss running through the infomaterous aether (the theory of a lumiferous ether through which electromagetic waves move is no longer widely accepted and its originators all long dead; it is very much in the public domain and so publishing houses, such as the beautiful WAP, can use it any way they please). But insofar as this is a commercial venture, we still need it fundamentally grounded not in profit-motive, but in kind delight. So cross your fingers for us; say a prayer for us; keep a gentle but stern, a wary but hopeful eye on us. Help us to try. Or at least let us try.

Author: Bartleby Willard, fictional character

Copyright holder/editor: Andrew Mackenzie Watson (of the Sand Springs Watsons)